HIV laws and impact in Nigeria and Uganda, transgender arrests in Malaysia, Stavudine in Russia, counterfeit condoms in Vietnam . . . We’re reading about the latest ways to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory

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NewWWRAlmost nobody wants to help – The passage and signing of Nigeria’s oppressive and bizaare “Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act 2013,” preceded the enactment of Uganda’s similarly spirited law, but apart from initial reports indicating the results of the law were predictably brutal, little has been written about the fallout there since — and even less has been said by policy makers. This Lagos-datelined article gives us a chance to catch up. Pointing out that a clause in the law can be used against those who provide health services to gay people, it tells of the predictable results. It describes a landscape of fear and suspicion, a failing public health system and overburdened nonprofit efforts. It also tells the experience of a gay Nigerian with a now heightened need for secrecy, seeking HIV treatment: “I have to live a fake life, a life that is not mine, just to get the health care I need.”

Ugandan HIV bill “nonsensical,” says health body – Since the “health body” being cited here is Uganda’s own AIDS commission, one wonders what influence the comments here might have on President Yoweri Museveni, who has not yet signed the Parliament’s latest widely condemned legislative offering. The Parliament’s new HIV and AIDS Prevention and Control Act, which would create the crimes of “intentional” and “attempted” HIV transmission, institute mandatory testing of pregnant women, their partners, and sex crime victims, while lifting patient confidentiality, is a bad idea, Uganda AIDS Commission chair Vinand Nantulya explains. “If this is the law, then a right-thinking person would not get tested . . .” he points out. “But is this what we want? No! . . .” Hearing the right arguments from the right people could make all the difference. Just look at this article about the United Nations General Assembly’s new president: Ugandan minister wins key U.N. post despite anti-gay law. Before his appointment, Ugandan Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa explained he supported his country’s Anti-Homosexuality Law because it would help prevent children from being “recruited” into an “abnormal practice.” Now, newly elected to head the United Nations’ General Assembly, he seems to indicate his views on homosexuality have shifted, saying he has “no problem with it at all,” (as long as gay people keep their sexuality secret, he adds) and that he is “not homophobic.” Unfortunately some of his fellow General Assembly members views on HIV transmission criminalizing laws will probably exert less peer pressure — more than 60 countries, including the U.S. have HIV criminalization laws that run counter public health guidances.

Malaysia: 17 transgender women arrested – This news from 76 Crimes of arrests in Malaysia on charges of breaking a law against “men posing as women” sadly follows an encouraging report covered here Tuesday of an instance in which the country’s government managed to overcome fear and prejudice in the interests of public health. Malaysia instituted and funded needle syringe and methadone maintenance programs when officials realized that two thirds of the country’s HIV epidemic affected people who inject drugs, according to that report. But the same report noted that the epidemic also disproportionately impacts transgender individuals.

Patients are tired of the widespread use of Stavudine in Russia – In 2013 the World Health Organization reiterated its recommendation that this toxic antiretroviral with disfiguring and lasting side effects be dropped from treatment programs. But according to this update from the Fourth Conference on HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, an estimated 5,000 Russians continue to receive the drug as part of their HIV treatment.

Vietnam’s counterfeit condom crisis – The perils of middle-income status are illuminated once again in this article telling how poor quality and often counterfeit brand condoms have “flooded” Vietnam. According to the article, aid agencies procured all of Vietnam’s condoms until 2010, but upon the country’s promotion to “middle-income” status, “procurement funding ended ‘virtually overnight.'” The article also notes that regulation of consumer products in Vietnam “has had a history of failure.” This news comes at a particularly bad time for sex workers in Vietnam, who, the article notes, until recently faced arrest and forced “rehabilitation” (sweat shop training) if caught carrying condoms. Lawmakers recently lifted that danger, only to have sex workers now facing a crisis in what the article calls “condom credibility.”

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